Mike and I will have been married for fifteen years this July. That’s a long time. We’ve been talking on and off, sharing little bits of insight, over the last few weeks about how different we are now. The Michael and Natalie of 2002 are not the Mike and Nats of 2017.
I think one of the foundations of our marriage was something we stumbled onto in complete naivety, and I believe it was this attitude that has stood us in good stead thus far. One month before our wedding, Mike and I sat in my car parked on a construction site and had a candid, straightforward conversation: we confessed that we could live without one another. It would be sad, Mike said, but I think I’d be okay if we broke up. Me too, I said, and we both giggled. Do you want to break up, we asked each other. No, we still wanted to go ahead and get married.
I realize that sounds very clinical. Where were the romance and the passion? They were there, but honestly, we’re both simply very rational people. We unknowingly started our marriage as willing participants, individuals making a logical choice to do life together. Zero co-dependence. You do you, and I’ll do me, and hopefully, that will make a decent ‘we‘.
It’s surprising that we managed to lay that very concrete foundation with all the undue vocal influences we had harping at us: Marriage is the connection of two souls, bound till death, male the protector/provider and female the helpmate. Equal in importance, but different roles. Don’t negate the roles; you’ll destroy the marriage. Let the man lead. Otherwise, he’ll miss his calling, let the woman support otherwise she’ll lose hers. (I just laughed out loud… who would ever think I’d be able to do that?!)
I don’t believe a single one of those precepts anymore. I don’t think I ever truly believed any of it; I just went along with it because I had forgotten how to listen to my intuition. Silly girl! Luckily I’m not a rule follower and Mike’s no fool otherwise, our marriage would have been over years ago.
Is marriage forever? When you marry someone should it mean a life-long, non-negotiable contract? I’ve been thinking about this long and hard, and I think, the answer is both, yes and no. Stay with me now… don’t freak out.
Back in the day when marriage (monogamous union) was instituted as a binding contract, people died young. Both men and women often experienced more than one marriage because their spouses died off leaving them alone. Being alone, especially for a female, was unsafe and socially unacceptable.
Today, when I sign a marriage certificate, I am in essence entering into a legal contract that can be binding for as long as seventy years. YIKES! The cost of breaking that contract, legally speaking, is astronomical. In fact, the financial catastrophe that is divorce is a scourge on our society, and I think divorce lawyers are morally repugnant. That may be a little harsh, but ya know, someone’s gotta say it.
If marriages were too easy to dissolve, wouldn’t we be a country drowning divorcees, you ask? Maybe. But I don’t think so.
Imagine if couples who love each other and want to make an outward declaration of their commitment to one another, signed a renewable contract, say every three years. If they break the contract before the three-year term is up, it costs them a fortune (as it does now). But, if they make it to three years and sign the contract for a further three years, well then, they get to have a small wedding. A little ‘renewed’ party. And then three years later, if they sign it again, a bigger party, and on it goes. The Sixty thousand dollar wedding should not be allowed to happen until a couple has made it to their thirtieth anniversary. Man! I’d love to buy an expensive gift for that couple. But the couple who has no clue about their actual commitment to each other on day one? No, they don’t deserve an obscenely expensive gift. I’m serious; modern-day big weddings are bullshit.
I’ve fallen in and out of love with Mike at least five times in our fifteen-year marriage. My ‘romantic attraction’ seems to have a three-year cycle. And he’s experienced a similar cycle. We speak about it often, and we openly discuss the validity of our marriage, our monogamy, and our connection to one another. We review. Do you? Honestly, there are many times when we’ve talked about how fun it would be to be with other people. But then we consider our family— the unit that is Mike, Nats, Morgan and Jude— and we are horrified at the thought of that unit no longer existing. And so we make a choice to ‘renew’.
People make the right choice more often than not, especially if they are allowed to make that choice without judgement. Staying married to one person for your whole life is an honour, it shouldn’t be an expectation. If you work your way through the love cycles in life, well then, you reap the reward of growing old with your life-partner. I think growing old with someone is a singular, beautiful human experience. You get what you pay for in this life.
But if you choose to dissolve a marriage there should be no judgement. Seriously, don’t judge other people’s ‘success’ or ‘failures’ based on your experience. Life is hard and complicated, and it has so many nuances.
Marriage shouldn’t be an idol that we uphold as the marker of adulthood. Choosing to stay single, or get a divorce are not modern day evils. We expect progress in all areas of society, so why do we think that an institution that was invented to ‘protect community’, should not advance? That’s silly.
Having said that, I do want to say that I like marriage. I think it’s a brave way to do life.
Perhaps this is oversimplifying a very intricate system in our world. I concede that there are flaws in my theory. So far, Mike and I seem to be doing pretty well following this course of action. And we still like each other, and we still plan for our old age together. But we’ll keep reviewing, keeping our hands open with each other, being honest. Come back and check in on us in three years…